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‘The day the bar died’: Criminal barristers react to legal aid deal

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Disappointment, frustration and calls for collective unity

Criminal barristers have taken to Twitter to share their thoughts and feelings in the wake of their narrow decision to accept the government’s pay deal on legal aid.

Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis has described the result as a “breakthrough” which he put down to both the government and criminal barristers “coming together and restarting what I hope to be a constructive relationship as we work to drive down the backlog and ensure victims see justice done sooner”.

The acceptance of the government’s offer is an early boost for Lewis who was appointed Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice at the beginning of September. However, political pressure will now be mounting on the government concerning other strikes by public sector workers.

In the lead-up to the vote, several barristers who were opposed to the government’s deal voiced their criticisms on Twitter. Amongst those who have gone public saying they voted the deal down were the Secret Barrister and Chris Daw KC who both have a large following on social media.

Several barristers shared their strong and raw emotions at this morning’s result which saw 57% of those who voted accept the deal.

Many have indicated that this result does not necessarily mark the end of the government’s troubles.

Others have focused their comments more on attempting to encourage unity following the divisive vote.

TOMORROW: The Legal Cheek October UK Virtual Law Fair 2022

34 Comments

Anonymous

Other jobs are available. No? Staying and keeping the job title? Thought so.

(24)(43)

Are you stupid?

They love what they do, they just don’t want to be paid shit pittance and treated poorly for it. It’s really not that hard to understand.

(62)(11)

Anon

I’ll support their strike the day a barrister offers pro bono help to Uber drivers, Amazon warehouse workers or teaching assistants who are literally paid a pittance.

(19)(37)

dumb dumb

are you forgetting that this strike is by LEGAL AID CRIMINAL BARRISTERS and not commercial barristers?

(65)(7)

Advocate

You do realise that the Bar has a charity that organises exactly this don’t you?
https://weareadvocate.org.uk/

(26)(6)

Anon

I’ve actually done that in the last few years through the bar pro bono unit. I’m not a criminal chap however.

(1)(1)

Anon

What good is a criminal legal aid barrister going to do them?

(1)(0)

No, but you are

Hey, 1.14pm, you need to study economics, mate. If people really want to do something then it is much easier to pay them far less particularly if there is no shortage on the supply side, which there certainly isn’t.

(6)(12)

Urgh

Look how close the vote was – 57% to 43%.

There are plenty of criminal barristers who were happy with what the government offered, who very likely didn’t have a pressing NEED for the extra cash coming from upper middle class backgrounds and who are likely ashamed of the alarmist rhetoric used by their colleagues to scare the public into thinking that violent criminals are suddenly not going to end up in prison.

This episode should be used as a case study by sociologists into the power of social media to create moral panics.

(12)(12)

Not buying it

Close? One third more CBA members voted to take the deal than to reject it. That is not even close to being close.

(14)(3)

Anon

15 per cent pay increase is pretty reasonable for what is essentially public sector work. Not sure what they were expecting

(8)(13)

Anonymous

They were expecting to get EVERYTHING they screamed in the streets for, and if they didn’t get EXACTLY what they wanted, it makes everyone else ‘stupid’, whilst they themselves are ‘hurt’ and ‘angry’.

Anyone else have toddlers at home too? Because it’s never enough to try and tell them they already have enough toys, or that other kids aren’t so lucky, or that the world won’t end because their can’t have exactly what they like right now.

(18)(15)

Mel O'Drama

Thankfully the melodrama remains strong.

(10)(2)

Anonymous

It was horrible on the news to see reporters ducking from the shelling that’s happening in Kiev right now.

Must be genuinely devastating for those citizens who can’t afford to leave.

But anyway, barristers are upset.

(13)(15)

Surprised

I’m pretty surprised by the response to the plight of criminal barristers. Yes, in the grand scheme of things there are more important things going on in the world. And, yes, there are many other professions deserving of better pay and conditions. But, criminal barristers are a pretty poorly treated as a group.

First, remember there is delayed payment, no holiday pay, sick pay, pension or other work benefits. Then there is the need to pay for clerking and rent. It involves regular unsocial hours that are not conducive to family life. And it involves day-to-day contact with the very worst of humanity. Unsurprisingly, it takes a toll. Like it or not, it is a vital public service. And it is the reputation of the that part of the legal system that ultimately drives our legal system’s desirability to litigants around the world.

Then consider this. Part of the pay deal represents an offer to (finally) pay for written work. Few people would tolerate not being paid for work done. Then consider that pay at the criminal bar has fallen 30% in 20 years. The 15% offered does not remedy that. The 15% is not a kind offer from the Government. It adopts the recommendation of a government commissioned, independent review that, in 2021, said an immediate 15% increase in fees was the absolute minimum investment required. That 15% is a year late and now comes against massive inflation and a cost of living crisis.

Then consider how much the Government is prepared to pay for legal services in other areas. Essentially, private rates.

Yes, it’s easy to say move to another area, and so on. But the reality is there are many in the legal sector earning an awful lot more for doing an awful lot less. And which matters far less. To those in such a position that don’t support the criminal Bar, remember that you trade on the reputation of English justice, a reputation forged almost exclusively in the criminal courts.

(35)(6)

No

The last paragraph blew it all up. No-one cares about the reputation of English criminal justice and as a taxpayer I just want the lowest cost system and defendants funded to the minimum to meet rights duties. We don’t need a Rolls Royce criminal system, all we need is a serviceable second hand small Ford system. The reputational value of English justice is in the civil side where the massive services sector is one of the most valuable contributors to net balance of payments and income tax. So really if you want to work for a low pay stop moaning, and if you don’t want to work for low pay change jobs and stop moaning.

(6)(16)

Anon

We’re not all like you.

(0)(0)

Many former CBA, Bar Council and Circuit Leaders

It is of course absolutely no co-incidence that the biggest cheerleaders for a compromise deal end up with the silk gowns, judicial appointments, and leadership positions shortly after a vote to discontinue action. Been happening for years. You have just accepted an increase that your leaders are describing as “unprecedented”, they of course ignore the fact that it is an ‘increase’ on years upon years of cuts and, in any event, wiped out by inflation.

(11)(1)

Alan

If these lazy layabouts spent half as much energy on finding ways to make money as they do whining on twitter there would be no strike.

(4)(11)

Wendifer

I see you’re really grown up and mature now Alan and you have your big boy pants on.

Are those Pampers or Huggies?

(9)(8)

Anon

They get no empathy from the public because they for some reason treat themselves as the ONLY profession that works with ‘undesirable’ people (Hello prison guards, Police, nurses and social workers, who’ll spend many more hours in the company of those people).

They think having a degree genuinely makes them exceptional compared to others (whereas it might have done 30 years ago), they think they are the only people in the world who have wait to get paid (as if tradesmen and other freelancers don’t exist), they blame the job and not their social life/seeking internet validation for the reason they never see their kids (whereas they are self-employed and don’t have to work the contractual hours others do) and then worse of all, they claim they somehow live in ‘poverty’ whilst never setting foot in a foodback or being unable to pay an energy bill like many are in the UK.

After everything, they have the temerity to lash out at anyone who points out the holes in their story, questions the hyperbole and who doesn’t believe in they are anywhere near as oppressed as other people are.

Read these Tweets like a RADA audition monologue. They copy what others do/say and hope to convince you to their side – that’s what they are paid for. But what they say online bears little to the reality of the inheritances, wealthy partners, lavish weddings, pedigree dogs and property ownership that many in the criminal bar enjoy everyday.

(17)(12)

Taxpayer

A disaster for taxpayers. The CBA folded over nothing and now every striking public sector worker will say “the barristers got 15% and we want that too”.

(5)(1)

stfu

maybe don’t give every public sector worker a real terms pay cut every year and then you won’t have a problem. and here’s an idea: stop making public sector workers do 2 people’s jobs, for one salary, which doesn’t even keep up with inflation, because you’re too cheap to adequately staff them. Taxpayers are the first to complain when they can’t see a doctor, but too shortsighted to think about the conditions of the people involved in getting doctors ready to practice!!

(1)(0)

Twitterato

The best thing barristers can do to win sympathy is to stay off social media.

(17)(0)

Anon

Some unduly hysterical reactions here. There is a certain type of criminal barrister of the twitter variety that feeds on melodrama. They need to acknowledge that this is a pretty reasonable deal in tough economic times.

I say this as someone who supported the strikes.

(11)(1)

Gus the Snedger on his grand UK Tour (send a telegram for bookings).

Long long time ago, I can still remember
How that wig used to make me smile

And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those juries dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every brief I’d get delivered
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I raged
When I read about Legal Aid
But something touched me deep inside
The day the Criminal Bar died

So bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

Did you write your speech, in the pub?
And do you have faith in Law Lords above?
If Archbold tells you so
Do you believe in the Master of the Rolls?
Can the jury save your client’s soul?
And can you teach me how to orate real slow?

Well I know that you’re in a case with him
‘Cause I saw you negotiating over Pimms
You both kicked off your wigs
Then said the Judge is a misogynist pig
I was a lonely 20-something courtroom buck
With a pink ribboned brief and my client was f***ed
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the Criminal Bar died

I started singing bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

Now for ten years we’ve been on our feet
And I’ve grown fat eating on Fleet Street
But that’s not how it used to be
When the indictment used to refer to “The Queen”
In a case about pictures that were obscene
And submissions that came from you and me
Oh and while the Judge was looking down
The defendant stole his wig and gown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while you read the Sentencing Guideline
I knocked back a big glass of wine
And we heard the victims cryin’
The day the Criminal Bar died

So bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

Helter skelter in the summer swelter
I left my wheelie-case in a bus shelter
Eight miles back and falling fast
The Judge said “I can’t hear you, Ass!” because I didn’t have my Batman cape or my flask

With the OIC on the sidelines in a vast
Courtroom we did have a blast
Now the part heard trial it did resume The jury dancing to your tune
We all got up to prance
The defendant had buggered off to France
‘Cause your exhibits you did wield
The witness just went on to yield…
Do you recall what they revealed…
The day the Criminal Bar died?

We started singing bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A Court building outdated like MySpace
With no time left to start apace
So come on, Jury be nimble, Jury be quick
Jury don’t think the D’s a dick

‘Cause porn is the my client’s only friend
Oh, and as I watched him in the dock
Heard the clunk of that big lock
The Daily Mail says he’s going to hell
Naughty pictures make his penis swell
And as the jury deliberated into the night
Sun readers called him a piece of sh**e
I saw the Lord Chancellor laughing with delight

The day the Criminal Bar died he was singing bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

I met a girl in the cells who stank of booze
Withdrawing from drugs and covered in poo
But she just spat and turned away because I said she’d be arraigned
She was disadvantaged, she was poor
Her abusive partner called her a whore
But the man ended up getting brained
And in the streets, the children screamed
When through his skull she’d bashed a beam
But not a word was spoken
His bones all were broken
And the three people I admire most
The Magistrates who did not boast
They bailed her to an address on the coast

The day the Criminal Bar died

So bye-bye, Mr Barrister Guy
Took my beagle to the Legal
But the Aid fund was dry
Them good old boys were eating’ beans chips and pie
Singing, “This’ll be the day the Bar died”
This will be the day the Bar died.

(22)(3)

Jack Flash

Does this sort of thing keep away the nagging doubts you will ever afford a mortgage even in Zone 6?

(3)(2)

Not Gus’ Mum. Honest!

That’s actually rather good…

😁

(8)(0)

Ellen

Embedded in this is leftist apologism for criminals. That is an insult to the law-abiding working class. Criminals are criminals because they are criminals. Let’s stop wasting billions on trying to rehabilitate them. Let’s get rid of complex sentencing hearings and social worker reports and all that crap too. The only thing that should be relevant is the offence and their previous and sentencing could just be done off a table in 10 minutes after guilt is confirmed.

(3)(5)

LSB

I think we had this approach once in this country.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries I think…

(4)(3)

Vic Torian

Yes, it started to collapse when evangelical Christians thought they can save souls and that misguided torch was grabbed with zeal by socialists thereafter.

With 75% of criminals reoffending within the decade after release and over half of then reoffending in the first year out, the “save the poor criminal he is a victim” mentality is a problem not a solution. Prison should be to protect the law abiding from criminals and to punish. The easiest way to stop the university of crime problem is solitary confinement, with no social areas or visits etc.

If criminals really want to change they can show it on their release rather than using programmes in jail simply as a means to get out earlier so they can offend again.

(2)(0)

Rumpolina

“Defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer”.

Edum Skellenami

“Defend the children of the poor and punish the wrongdoer”.

Leftie Loon

“Defend the wrongdoer and punish the children of the poor [who have worked hard and done well for themselves].”

(4)(0)

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